INTERVIEW: Sammy Jones speaks with Dave Stewart about his work in Ghost the musical
His achievements as a musician, a producer, author, director, photographer, film-maker and philanthropist make for simply dazzling reading.
But when I contact Dave Stewart at home in Los Angeles, the purpose of the call is to discuss the stage version of Ghost.
Because the man who has accumulated more than 100 million in album sales has also written the score for the show based on the Oscar-winning musical.
The curtain rises for a two week stay in Milton Keynes on Tuesday, but it has has been wowing audiences for quite some time now, with celebrated stints in the West End and on Broadway.
How did Dave become involved in the project?
“It was six or seven years ago, and I was approached by the producers, Colin Ingram and David Rose.
“We had a discussion about it and I was trying to get my head around how you would turn it into a musical...”
A few meetings later, and with Matthew Warchus (whose stage work includes former MK deliveries like Boeing Boeing and Tell Me on a Sunday) on board as director, the idea seemed to hot up.
“...and I asked Glen Ballard (whose credits include Michael Jackson and Alanis Morrisette) if he wanted to come and join in as a potential collaborator.
“The meeting went on for hours and hours and we got on really well, and I thought ‘This could be a really interesting thing to do.’
“Marcus is such a brilliant creative mind and a great director, and it started to get cut into a great shape.
“It was weird for me though, because not only had I seen the movie along with everyone else, but I had also worked with Demi Moore.
“I was a photographer and shot her for lots of magazine covers, flew to India with her and spent lots of time with her in different places.
“She was the first one I told.
“I text her and said, ‘You’ll never guess what...’”
Dave recalls that when the work was done, letting Ghost loose was easy, simply because it was such a collaborative process to work on.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t sit back in the cheap seats and take in a performance every once in a while.
“It really is fun slipping in at the back and watching it all unfold,” he says with a laugh.
“Audiences are different, but basically it is like a roller-coaster being in the audience – they are crying their eyes out at one point, then laughing another moment, then shocked into silence at other points.
“Every performance has had a standing ovation at the end, and that ovation is usually a mix of people clapping and people crying.”
And fellas, you aren’t exempt.
“I’ve been there and watched guys out of the corner of my eye trying not to cry, and their wife is crying, and then you see them get a hanky out when no-one is looking!”
But as a project, Ghost is behind him really, and he has plenty of other things on the boil.
There are a wealth of TV and film projects in the pipeline, he has been in the studio working on releases for other artists and is putting the finishing touches on his next solo release, Lucky Numbers which, by the time you read this, will be just a couple of weeks away from release.
Bob Dylan’s to the point observation of Stewart as ‘an explosive musician, deft guitar player,’ and someone who ‘innately recognises the genius in other people and puts it into play without being manipulative,’ goes a long way to explaining the demand for his talent.
Saying ‘No’ to potential work is a very regular occurrence.
“I turn things down most weeks, or most days actually...”
Really, most days?
“Mmm,” he says quietly, “I get emails about various things coming from all parts of the world, but it’s really a matter of sticking to things that you love, because if you love doing it, you are usually pretty good at it.
“But every now and then I do like trampling into the unknown with a musical, or something like that, learning as I go and getting absorbed in stuff.
“In the 1990s, I suddenly decided to become a photographer, stopped playing music and went around the world taking photographs.
“When you do something like that it’s really good when you go back to music, you get excited about it again...”
Dave has produced albums and co-written songs for artists including Bono, Bryan Ferry, Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty, Katy Perry, Mick Jagger and Sinead O’Connor.
Whatever ‘it’ is, Dave has it.
“I’ve been doing it a long time, about 40 years,” he says, trying to answer our question: ‘What does Dave have that others don’t?’
“I’m a songwriter, and I’ve written a lot of successful ones, so there’s that, but once people get to know me they feel very comfortable and at ease, because I am a down to earth person,” he thinks.
“I think I have a calming effect and know how to collaborate in a way artists really like.
“The other thing is I then know how to turn it into a record.
“Those things together are probably why a lot of people are drawn to me.”
During the days of Eurythmics, the press built up what Dave says was ‘a wild rock ‘n’ roll fake picture, and not the right impression of me as a person.’
But these days he has swapped England (“I like being in the heart of the city and in London, was in the centre of Covent Garden), for life on the sunny side, in the City of Angels.
It is the perfect hub for the perfect creative.
“I have a studio about 10 minutes from my home.
It is on Hollywood Boulevard, on a penthouse overlooking the cityscape of LA.
“It is quite inspiring when night comes down and all the lights go on...”
But before leaving Dave to his creativity, we want him to inspire you to take a ticket for the timeless fantasy that is Ghost.
“We live in a time when everything is being overloaded, and everyone is dashing here and there and being bombarded with stuff from the internet, and it’s all about schedules and deadlines.
“Ghost is a show that reminds you what life and love is all about,” he says simply.
Catch Ghost at MK Theatre from Tuesday, through to September 28.
Tickets cost from £10 to £39.50 (subject to booking fee).
Call 0844 871 7652 to book.